Educators Guide To Copyright And Video Materials


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The purpose of this document is to help educators and students better understand the complex and often confusing copyright laws and how they pertain to the use of copyrighted material in the classroom.

Educators should feel confident that they can use copyrighted material for instructional purposes and not worry about legal ramifications.

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Educators Guide To Copyright And Video Materials

  1. 1. An Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Video Materials: How Copyright Law Exceptions and Fair Use Law Protects Students and Teachers Synergy Broadcast Systems 16115 Dooley Road Addison, TX 75001 800-601-6991 or 972-980-6991
  2. 2. The purpose of this document1 is to help educators and students better understand the complex and often confusing copyright laws and how they pertain to the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Educators should feel confident that they can use copyrighted material for instructional purposes and not worry about legal ramifications. The good news is that once all the legal jargon, sections and subsections are sorted out, there are very strong protections for educators and students alike. This short and simple guide will explain the four keys that exist within our current copyright laws that allow educators to utilize all variety of copyrighted material and also convert video from one format into another that works best in the classroom. In the following pages we will explain: 1. How the educational environment is exempt from nearly all of the copyright restrictions regarding the use of copyrighted material. 2. How the most recent revision of the Copyright Law, known as the Teach Act, allows for the digital conversion and transmission of copyrighted content that is in a non-digital format (like VHS). 3. What the intent of the “Fair Use” provision of the Copyright Law is, and how it gives educators and students a tremendous advantage when working with copyrighted materials. 4. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that each of the pieces of legislation exist to allow for educational use of copyrighted materials but also has limitations. The key to remember is that when all of the protections are looked at in combination, you quickly realize that the use of these materials by educators in the classroom is virtually limitless, and you can use these materials without fear of being in violation of any of the copyright laws as long as your use of copyrighted material is not in a commercial environment for financial gain. What Part of the Copyright Law Exempts Educators? Section 110 - Here is what it says: § 110 · Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright: (1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made. An Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Video Materials Page 2
  3. 3. This is what it means: In short, section 110 of the United States Copyright Law provides exemptions for the copying, digital encoding, and digital transmission of copyrighted materials for teachers and students in the course of their studies. NOLO ( is an online web portal designed to make America’s legal system available to everyone. As such, their mission is to present things in a common sense approach. They provide articles, podcasts and other guidelines on their website, written by attorneys to address all areas of law. Here’s their interpretation of Copyright Law: Check this out… The center for Social “The rest of the language used around the educational exemption is Media has an inform- basically the legislators’ attempt to close any loopholes that might be ative video and guide left for people who are seeking to make pirated copies of movies, and for the use of the Fair other copyrighted materials. The everyday teacher in the classroom or Use regulations; you student utilizing a teaching tool in the course of their studies should can find it by clicking not have anything to worry about when it comes to Copyright Law. As here. a practical matter, it is highly unlikely that a television producer would ever sue a school or individual teacher. Most use is never discovered -- after all, there are no copyright police roaming the nation's classrooms.” Recent Revisions – Known as the “Teach Act” The Teach Act was added to the Copyright Law in late 2002, and is also found in section 110. The language used is complex, but here is what you as an educator need to know: “The everyday 1. Transmitting performances of all of a non-dramatic literary teacher in the or musical work classroom or student Non-dramatic literary works as defined in the Act excludes audiovisual utilizing a teaching works; thus, examples of permitted performances in this category in tool in the course of which entire works may be displayed and performed might include a their studies should poetry or short story reading. Non-dramatic musical works would not have anything to include all music other than opera, music videos (because they are worry about when it audiovisual), and musicals. comes to Copyright 2. Transmitting reasonable and limited portions of any other Law” performance -NOLO This category includes all audiovisual works such as films and videos of all types, and any dramatic musical works excluded above. 3. Transmitting displays of any work in amounts comparable to typical face-to-face displays This category would include still images of all kinds. An Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Video Materials Page 3
  4. 4. Finally, a new section was added to the Copyright Act in conjunction with the Teach Act to authorize educators to make the copies necessary to display and perform works in a digital environment. New Section 112(f) (ephemeral recordings) works with Section 110 to permit those authorized to perform and display works under 110 to copy digital works and digitize analog works in order to make authorized displays and performances so long as such copies are retained only by the institution and used only for the activities authorized by Section 110. This means you can encode or transcode content to meet your needs as long as those needs stay within the classroom learning environment and are used for educational purposes and not commercial gain and as long as all digital copies are retained by your school or institution. What is “Fair Use” in the Copyright Law? Fair use is an interpretive and flexible portion of the Copyright Law that allows for the use of portions of copyrighted material based on the following criteria: • The nature of the copyrighted work • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of the work • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes What if I need to Record Something from Cable or TV for My Class? Am I still protected? From, “Television programs, like most other types of expression, are protected by federal copyright laws. This means that as a general rule, a TV program can legally be taped and shown to students only with the copyright owner's permission. Fortunately, the Copyright Act contains a special exception. Under what is known as the "Fair Use" rule, someone other than the copyright owner may make limited use of a copyrighted work without permission for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, parody, and news reporting.” There are limitations to this area of the law in that you can record a TV program that was broadcast to the general public and you can make several copies of the work but you must show the work within the first 10 consecutive days following the recording. If there is a desire to An Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Video Materials Page 4
  5. 5. show the content beyond the 10 day window you should consider contacting the copyright holder to purchase the rights to the content. Programs from non-public broadcasts such as HBO, C-SPAN and similar providers are not included in this exemption since they are only offered in cable service plans and not considered a broadcast to the general public. Conclusion To date, there has been no legal challenge to the idea that educators and their pupils are exempt from the restrictions of United States Copyright Law. This fact alone suggests that the private sector is not interested in coming after students or teachers who use copyrighted materials to further their ability to teach and to learn. Additionally, the combination of all the protections described above leave no legal grounds for any copyright violation claim to be made against an educator. The recent crackdown on the overall piracy market has created a myth among teachers that has caused some educators to reject using videos in fear of a legal backlash. However, “schools have a special responsibility to set an example regarding copyright law. And from a purely practical point of view, schools are an important market for producers of documentaries and other educational works. If, instead of buying copies of a program, schools simply taped a telecast and made as many copies as they chose, producers might be discouraged from entering this market and Additional Information: would be less likely to create new educational works.” According to NOLO legal experts. The reality is that using video is a very beneficial teaching tool, and educators can use media, confident in the knowledge that our United States Copyright law protects teachers and pupils when using this content in an educational environment. 1 Disclaimer – This document is presented as information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Should additional information or specific copyright advice be required please contact legal counsel. About Synergy Broadcast Systems Synergy Broadcast Systems was established in 1987 and is located in Dallas, TX. The company provides turnkey video automation solutions that include IPTV, remote video delivery, broadcast and cable automation, video on demand, media conversion, archiving and digital signage. Our solutions are modular, flexible and economically scalable to fit the needs of most facilities and provide a migration path for future growth and expansion. For more information please visit our website at, our blog at or call us at 800-601-6991. An Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Video Materials Page 5